Starvation threatens flood victims

CHINGWIZI CAMP, MWENEZI - About 2 800 households face starvation at Chingwizi Camp, a holding facility for families that were displaced by the Tokwe-Mukorsi flood basin disaster.

Over 60 000 villagers were affected after torrential rains caused the partial collapse of the Tokwe-Mukorsi Dam wall.

The dam is being built by an Italian company, Salini, with funding from the Zimbabwean government, and is expected to provide irrigation to the local communal area of Chivi, which is vulnerable to recurrent food shortages due to the area’s low rainfall.

Villagers along the lower part of the dam were the worst hit, with roads cut off, their homes, farms and food stocks swept away they had to be relocated to Chingwizi Farm.

Authorities say the magnitude of the floods was unprecedented and long-term measures to ease the impact are costly and complicated.

Kudakwashe Bhasikiti, minister of State for Masvingo Province, said food supplies available would only last until the end of the month and the few deliveries or donations which were made two days ago would last until the first week of April.

“We do not have enough food for the month of April for the people and we are still appealing for support from the corporate world and development partners,” Bhasikiti said.

“We will be supporting these families for the next 12 months.”

“If we do not manage to access food for April, we run the risk of starving the people. Every family should be given enough food to last for 30 days.”

Bhasikiti said 123 tonnes of food was needed monthly to feed the 2 800 households but the camp only has less than half of the required amount.

He said Social Welfare minister Nicholas Goche would be visiting the camp on Thursday (today) so he might provide a strategy on the way forward.

A report on the floods revealed that the World Food Programme (WFP) has not yet secured the required funding and resources needed to start the procurement process to ensure timely food assistance.

A Daily News crew visiting Chingwizi Camp on a media tour organised by Unicef, witnessed rain-damaged maize meal in wheel barrows.  One woman said the maize meal was destroyed the previous week when the rains fell heavily.

The maize meal was being dumped at a time the villagers  complained about meagre food rations.

“The food rations that we are getting here are not enough plus we only get matemba (kapenta) and beans back home we had gardens and had vegetables but here things are difficult,” said Arleta Charumbira, a mother of six.

“At times, we don’t get the matemba and beans on time.”

Susitna Taberekera, another villager,  said the rations were not enough for her big family as she had more than seven children.

Last month,  Ignatius Chombo, the Local Government minister, appealed for $20 million to support those affected by the floods with relocation, construction of settlements and schools. 

But Bhasikiti said this was no longer enough.

“Minister Chombo was basing on the prevailing situation at the time. At the present moment, when we look at the challenges that we have, we require about 14 000 ha of land to turn into irrigation, assist in building permanent structures, the provision of piped water and other things we need about $150 million,” Bhasikiti said.

“We have so far pegged more than 700 stands because we want to decongest the camp. Three hectares would be under irrigation. Our position at the moment is we are moving with speed that is why the minister of Lands and Resettlement has tasked 54 members who are on the ground  to do that.

“Our aim is by next weekend, we should not be talking about this camp anymore, we want to have people resettled on a permanent location so that we begin working on  long-term solutions, were we begin working on their irrigated land, and also the provision of clean water, quickly putting up schools for their children so that before the beginning of the farming season, we will be able to allow them to work in their own fields.”

Bhasikiti added: “We have set out four primary schools and two secondary schools. We are looking for 40 teachers to begin with, some will be in the primary and secondary schools.

“A total of 1 800 households were compensated in level one and now $8,6 million is needed to compensate the remaining households. The money is coming from Treasury.”

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